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Guideline for neighbour problems / PREVENTING: 1.2 Anti-social behaviour orders and good neighbour agreements

Interventions and evidence explained

Most plausible interventions explained

During the orientation process of the available literature, we identified the following interventions as most plausible for setting rules of behavior and communicating about them (norming) in neighbour disputes:

  • Anti-social behaviour orders (a more punitive approach)
  • Good neighbour agreements (an approach focused on forming agreements)

Anti-social behaviour orders (a more punitive approach)

Anti-social behaviour orders are tools that can be applied in neighbour conflicts. An ASBO is a written order from the court for an individual to behave, or refrain from behaving, in a particular manner, rather than an agreement between parties based on trust. The order can also contain explicit instructions that restrict an individual from being in a particular area or neighbourhood. This is usually the case where the incidence of antisocial behaviour has been in a distinct public area, for example around local shops. A breach of the order results in the implementation of sanctions to remedy the breach and can include imprisonment depending on the nature of the original offences. They are issued after a breach of terms of a tenancy agreement and follow a similar, if more stringent, line to tenancy agreements in a contractual sense (Flint, p. 122).

Anti-social behaviour orders can be used where:

  • Individuals intimidate neighbours;
  • There is persistent unruly behaviour by a small group of individuals in a housing estate or other local area;
  • There are families whose anti-social behaviour, when challenged, leads to verbal abuse, vandalism, threats and graffiti.
  • There is serious and persistent bullying of children on an organised basis in public recreation or school grounds (Burney, p. 471)

Prior to anti-social behaviour orders being issued, relevant partners to neighbour disputes (such as local authorities, police, social services, youth offending teams, community teams and landlord organisations) can conduct problem-solving meetings. Regular problem-solving meetings provide forums where all aspects of anti-social behaviour can be discussed, and are attended by representatives able to act on the group’s decisions. They also provide a more convenient forum in which to adopt an holistic approach to anti-social behaviour, and are a convenient place to share information between all relevant parties, including nonstatutory partners. Anti-social behaviour can be monitored over time, and strategic approaches to local problems can be developed between agencies. The group will also develop experience and expertise, and become better equipped to deal with anti-social behaviour in the future (Campbell, p. 27).

Good neighbour agreements

Good neighbour agreements aim to promote positive behaviour in communities and extend the range of tools to address anti-social behaviour that is already in place (Croucher et al., p. V). [Good neighbour agreements] exist alongside the tenancy agreement forming a separate and discrete contract solely relating to the prevention and management of antisocial behavior. These agreements also transcend the boundaries of the landlord-tenant relationship by extending the spatial context of the right to quiet enjoyment of the home to include the wider neighbourhood and community as well as having the underlying aim of enhancing community safety and maintaining community stability (Flint, p. 122). Good neighbour agreements set standards, clarifying acceptable behaviour and highlighting the consequences of unacceptable behaviour (Croucher, p. 27). 

Landlords and other organisations wishing to introduce good neighbour agreements need to be clear about what they want to achieve; what types of behaviour they are intended to address; who will be the key players (e.g. landlord led or involving tenants’/residents’ groups or all tenants/ residents); which other stakeholders might be involved (e.g. Community Safety Partnerships, private landlords, Neighbourhood Watch schemes, schools etc); and, importantly, how the agreement would fit in with the wider anti-social behaviour strategy (Croucher, p. 53).


The term ‘good neighbour agreement’ covers a range of interventions reported by respondents that aim to promote positive behaviour by requiring households to behave in an acceptable manner including (amongst others) (Croucher, p. 14):

  • Good neighbour declarations;
  • Community promises;
  • Tenants’ codes of conduct/charter;
  • Tenant or community declarations.

Good Neighbour Agreements are used to (Croucher, p. 18):

  • To reinforce the landlord’s tenancy agreement;
  • To reinforce the community’s own values;
  • As part of an estate agreement (between the community and providers) and/or
  • To provide incentives for positive behaviour.

GNAs can be used as a requirement for new tenants, or as a symbolic act of commitment. Agreements covering large numbers of people – for example stock-wide agreements – were often more generic, whilst agreements covering small numbers of people were usually more specific. The content also varied depending on the aims of the agreement. Although there appeared to be a shared understanding of an over- arching aim of prevention, some agreements were much less prescriptive than others, simply setting out principles of neighbourliness and community living (Croucher, p. 29).

Example of a GNA: 

Selected interventions for comparison (defined as a PICO question)

For parties to a neighbour dispute looking to set rules of behavior and communicate about them (norming), are good neighbour agreements or anti-social behaviour orders more effective for well-being?

Search strategy

The databases used are: HeinOnline, Westlaw, Wiley Online Library, JSTOR, Taylor & Francis, and ResearchGate.

For this PICO question, keywords used in the search strategy are: neighbour dispute, community, settlement, monitoring, setting norms, contain, prevent, de-escalation. 

Assessment and grading of evidence

The main sources of evidence used for this particular subject are:

Quality of evidence and research gap

According to our research method, we grade the evidence comparing ASBOs and GNAs as very low.

More empirical evidence is needed specifically on the effectiveness of ASBOs and GNAs in particular. Both interventions are reviewed by experts, however large empirical studies are lacking.

Comparing the two interventions

Desirable outcomes of the interventions

Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs)
Good neighbour agreements (GNAs)
“When used successfully, ASBOs have managed to curb unruly behaviour, help rebuild the quality of life in communities and cement good relationships both between [housing] agencies and between these agencies and the community” (Campbell, p. xii).
“Good neighbour agreements compel tenants to form a contract with landlords and also to form a promise with neighbours and the community to respect the terms of the agreement. They provide a way of enmeshing landlord and tenant in a legal relationship but also enmeshing neighbours into a formalised cohesive social arrangement (Flint, p. 122).
ASBOs can resolve problem behaviour in neighbour settings quickly, as it enhances collaboration between partners. In general, where there were strong working relationships, as in the ‘true partnership’ and ‘multi-agency unit’ approaches, partnerships were often able to deal with problem behaviour more quickly. They also more often had strategies and protocols in place, detailing the responsibilities of each agency and resulting in clear obligations. (Campbell, p. 23).
“… those [landlord] organisations which had chosen to develop Good Neighbour Agreements that involved some degree of community participation (or at least addressed the specific concerns of local residents) appeared to reap wider benefits, e.g. a sense of ownership of the agreement among tenants and local residents and a greater willingness to report and challenge anti-social behaviour. Benefits of Good Neighbour Agreements were perceived to include: a reduction of complaints over time; fewer voids; more applications for homes on previously unpopular estates; a greater willingness among residents to challenge and report anti-social behaviour; and improved community cohesion. (Croucher, p. vii).
“Some real benefits have been felt from partnership working in some areas [during problem-solving meetings], where the ability to identify, challenge and deal with anti-social behaviour [between neighbours] has greatly improved. … [the consultation process alone during problem-solving meetings] has been of immense benefit to some, without the need to develop ASBOs further. Others have seen the benefits of information, intelligence and cost sharing and the ability to share the evidence gathering and enforcement processes.” (Campbell, p. 27).
“[Good neighbour agreements] promote positive behaviour, which appeals to residents and tenants” (Croucher, p. vii).
“Good neighbour agreements strengthen a community’s desire and ability to deal with nuisance and anti-social behaviour. [It also provides] informal peer pressure and the desire to be a good neighbour, which encourages new tenants/residents to join the agreement. [Furthermore, Good Neighbour Agreements] can trigger support where people are having problems adhering to the agreement.” (Croucher, p. vii).
GNAs are compatible with legal procedures, if legal action becomes necessary. “[Good neighbour agreements] can be backed up with other measures ranging from informal visits and warnings to enforcement or legal procedures where necessary” (Croucher, p. vii).
According to the survey study conducted by Croucher et al., many respondents explained that they had developed ways of monitoring and evaluating their good neighbour agreements. “For example (Croucher, p. 56): • encouraging residents and tenants to report incidents of anti-social behaviour (reports from local residents can be regarded as an indication of success in areas where previously residents had been reluctant to complain about anti-social behaviour; • monitoring the number of complaints about incidents of anti-social behaviour over time to identify any changes in numbers of reported incidents and the specific type of complaint; • monitoring the number of voids and the number of applications for housing in a particular area to identify changes in the level of demand; • using Community Safety Officers, Neighbourhood Wardens or estate caretakers and/or residents’ and tenants’ representatives to report incidents and changes in levels of anti-social behaviour; and • undertaking resident/tenant satisfaction surveys.”

Undesirable outcomes of the intervention

Anti-social behavior orders (ASBOs)
Good neighbour agreements (GNAs)
ASBOs are not focused on prevention of disputes in the neighbourhood, while this is often needed. “The contemporary agenda of zero tolerance and enforcement appears to overlook the relevance and often unacknowledged success of preventative measures and more focused management techniques, such as mediation and tenancy support to control and/or avoid the incidence of antisocial behavior” (Flint, p. 120).
Positive behaviour schemes like good neighbour agreements are not favoured by all tenants. “According to a large survey study, the idea [of concluding GNAs] was abandoned [by several tenants] as “inappropriate” following consultation with tenants” (Croucher, p. 40).
ASBOs sometimes lead to unfair prison sentences and other inappropriate forms of punishment. “There is evidence to suggest that antisocial behavior orders are being used inappropriately in some circumstances and that individuals are receiving a custodial sentence where the original offence was not punishable by prison [think of vandalism and intimidation of neighbours].” (Flint, p. 121). A civil remedy like an ASBO is often used to deal with criminal offenses that cannot be fully proven. “Although it was not the intention to treat the ASBO as yet another way of tackling youth crime, some councils and police forces are using it for cases where ‘we know you boys committed that crime but we can’t prove it to criminal standard’.” (Burney, p. 474).
GNAs and their goals are sometimes unclear to tenants. “For some tenants, it is unclear what such agreements could offer over and above the wide range of measures already taken to reduce anti-social behaviour and transform life for residents and staff on the estates” (Croucher, p. 40).
People who show anti-social behaviour need treatments, not punishment by anti-social behaviour orders. “Most people subjected to such antisocial behavior order are either mentally ill, have problems with drugs or alcohol or have a learning difficulty. In these circumstances, treatment and support to address the underlying causes of ASB would be a useful response” (p. Flint, 121).
ASBOs do not properly identify the needs that might lead neighbours to act in anti-social ways. “Although ASBOs were introduced as a response to destressing behaviour and to preserve community safety and the quality of life of those affected by antisocial behaviour, there seem to be few effective routine measures or initiatives available at the outset of a standard tenancy, to identify whether tenants have any particular needs which, if not addressed, would result in them being at risk of behaving in an antisocial manner” (Flint, p. 122).
Between 36 and 46% of the people breach the anti-social behaviour order, depending on what the order entails (Burney, p. 478). This suggests its normative power is not very great.

Balance of Outcomes

Taken together, the available research suggests that Good Neighbour Agreements are more beneficial to people’s wellbeing when setting norms in neighbour disputes. ASBOs manage to curb unruly behaviour and improve relationships within the community. In some cases, they can identify and resolve problem behaviour quickly.

On the other hand, there are quite some negative effects linked to Anti-social Behaviour Orders. Firstly, ASBOs are not focused on prevention of neighbour disputes. They lead to unfair prison sentences and are often not an appropriate response when dealing with vulnerable people. ASBOs also do not deal with underlying needs of people in neighbour disputes. 

Good Neighbour Agreements have a clear normative function. They compel tenants to form a contract with their landlords, but they also form a promise with neighbours and the community to respect and set norms. GNAs encourage positive behaviour and it strengthens a community’s desire and ability to deal with nuisance and anti-social behaviour. Other outcomes that can increase people’s wellbeing include a reduction of complaints over time and improved community cohesion.

Negative effects of Good Neighbour Agreements seem to be minor. Some tenants find it difficult to agree on GNAs and the agreements can be vague and unclear.

Taken all together, the positive effect of GNAs on people’s wellbeing is clear and it’s negative effects are small. On the other hand, ASBOs are linked to more severe negative effects. Therefore, for people looking to set norms in neighbour disputes, agreeing on Good Neighbour Agreements is preferred over Anti-social Behaviour Orders.


Taking into account the balance of outcomes and the quality and consistency of the evidence, we make the following recommendation: For parties to neighbour disputes looking to set rules of behavior and communicate about them, good neighbour agreements are more conducive to well-being than anti-social behaviour orders.

Table of Contents

1. Recommendations on PREVENTING
1.2. Anti-social behaviour orders and good neighbour agreements